Graphically, Serious Sam 3: BFE compromises with a heavy dose of quantity to outweigh quality. What it may lack in individual texture fidelity or pixels, it more than makes up for in how many enemies and projectiles can be smoothly displayed on screen. Even my aging Core 2 Duo and 8800 GTS tackled it with only the occasional slowdown, usually during a save or when a large number of enemies were spawning at once. That's not to say that it will always be chaos. You'll have some downtime to explore the maps and hunt down the all the secrets scattered across the world.
One of Serious Sam 3: BFE's weaker elements is the story. The game is clearly attempting to sell this experience with the inclusions of cutscenes and radio chatter. BFE actually stands for Before First Encounter referring to the original title Serious Sam: The First Encounter; this latest version details the events leading up to Sam using the Time-Lock to head back to ancient Egypt, the setting of the first game. The issue is that it's noticeably trying too hard to be B-movie levels of campy, and it comes across as the uncanny valley of schlock. It's not so bad as to be funny in unintended ways nor does it pull off good purposeful camp with a sly wink and a nod. However, Sam's occasional one-liners are often chuckle inducing.
The game's multiplayer offerings are similarly half-hearted. Rather than really playing on the existing strengths of the gameplay, the competitive and cooperative modes don't quite capture the same feeling. The problem is that what makes the single-player so fun is taking out the massive waves of enemies and somehow coming out on top, but both of the modes dilute that. Competitive multiplayer pits you in mostly standard deathmatch scenarios, and while on the surface cooperative multiplayer sounds like an amazing amount of fun, the additional players destroy any tension because the enemy numbers never really get a chance to accumulate, and there is only so much raising the difficulty can do to combat this problem.
In the end, these weaker elements don't impact my overall enjoyment with the game that much. You can come around a blind corner, see a wide open area and a dizzying stockpile of power-ups, and you just know that a ridiculous fight is going to break out. Then top it off, just before the first enemy shows up, the rock/metal soundtrack kicks in.
Bottom line: A few weaker sections do little to tarnish the fun of this old-school rooted shooter.
Recommendation: If you were disappointed by Duke Nukem Forever then Serious Sam 3: BFE is probably closer to your expectations of an old-school shooter with a sparse number of more modern-aligned changes.
Justin Clouse wishes the minigun had more than 500 rounds.
This review is based on the PC version of the game.